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Sep 30 2011

Separation of Church and State is Not “Anti-God”

The White House has new website where you can set up petitions to tell the administration what you would like them to do or change and some of the items receiving the most signatures involve the separation of church and state. And the Christian Post is quite unhappy about that.

A petition created on Sept. 22 by “Dimitar T,” entitled “Edit the Pledge of Allegiance to remove the phrase ‘Under God,’” has attracted more than 13,000 votes and is the fourth most popular petition on the White House’s “We the People” website.

The peition claims, “The Pledge of Allegiance is said every day in schools across America. It is a government sanctioned speech, and should remain neutral in matters of religion. In its current state, it supports the existence of God, which goes against several religions, and supports others. This bias should not be supported by the country according to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”


And a second one:

Another petition attracting signatures on “We the People,” is one calling for the removal of “In God We Trust” from U.S. currency.

That petition, also started by “Dimitar T” on Sept. 22, has attracted 8,792 signatures as of Monday afternoon. The petition claims the phrase “In God We Trust” is “unconstitutional.”

“It supports one religion over another, and should be removed from all currency. It violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. This phrase should be removed from created currency,” user “Dimitar T.” explains on the petition.

The headline on this article is:

White House’s ‘We the People’ Website Attracts Anti-God Petitions

But there’s nothing anti-God about those positions. Not only can one believe in God and still support the strict separation of church and state, many devout Christians argue that it’s absolutely necessary to do so. Many take the position that having the government endorsing religious beliefs only serves to undermine the validity of those beliefs. This was Jefferson’s position when he argued that it is only error that requires the government’s support, the truth can stand on its own.

In the founding days, some of the most outspoken proponents of strict separation were Baptists ministers like John Leland and Isaac Backus, because they had first hand experience with the dangers of established churches.

The initial threshold for a “We the People” petition to be reviewed by the White House for an “official response” requires that the petition accumulates 5,000 signatures in 30 days.

Once a petition hits that threshold, the White House supposedly reviews the petition and requests that the “appropriate policy exerts” respond.

The petitions organized by “Dimitar T” have amassed more than the minimum signatures required in about one week. It was unclear if the White House will consider the anti-God petitions for review, as indicated in the guidelines on “We the People.”

Oh, don’t worry your empty little heads over it. President Obama will sprout wings and fly to Jupiter before he seriously considers doing anything even remotely like trying to get “under God” taken out of the pledge of allegiance or “In God We Trust” taken off the money. I can scarcely imagine anything less likely than that.

25 comments

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  1. 1
    Bronze Dog

    Fundies simply don’t live in the real world, and deny the existence of our real position on the issue.

  2. 2
    Cuttlefish

    It’s the religious who should be asking for the language to be changed. The only god that could pass muster to be on currency or in a state-sanctioned pledge is an utterly empty “ceremonial god” devoid of any real religious content. If they don’t want to dilute their god to the homeopathic level required for it to represent a secular state, they should move to protect their brand.

  3. 3
    anandine

    Exactly, Cuttlefish. Maybe we need a US Department of Religion to accomplish just that. Maybe if we make it a state-operated bureaucracy, religious feeling will die among the red tape. It will become all ceremony, no policy.

  4. 4
    noahsarkive

    Oh, we’re not done with this by a long shot.

    It’s guaranteed that the citizens of Wingnuttia will shortly claim that Obama is soliciting petitions from (fill in the blank) [socialists, atheists, communists, homosexuals, liberals] to strike God from all social discourse.

  5. 5
    jimhofer

    I’ve always thought the better tactic would be to request having an S added to make it more friendly to Hindus:

    In Gods We Trust
    One Nation Under Gods

    I’m sure that would get the phrases quickly removed.

  6. 6
    richardelguru

    I thought that “In God We Trust” was always silently followed by ‘all others pay cash’

  7. 7
    Cuttlefish

    Could we encourage a group to petition for “In Allah We Trust”?

    In discussions on this, I have found that people laugh at the idea of “in Thor we trust”, but get strangely quiet at the idea of “in Allah we trust”, especially when I remind them that Allah is also the abrahamic god, just as Yahweh.

    Often (not always) brings home the ceremonial nature of the neutered god on the currency. If it were a real god, people would treat it differently.

  8. 8
    Olav

    anandine says:

    Exactly, Cuttlefish. Maybe we need a US Department of Religion to accomplish just that. Maybe if we make it a state-operated bureaucracy, religious feeling will die among the red tape. It will become all ceremony, no policy.

    Of course, this is exactly how the “State Church” operates in a few North/Western European countries that still maintain that tradition. People just don’t take it seriously anymore, or they regard it purely as folklore.

  9. 9
    slc1

    Re Cuttlefish @ #7

    In discussions on this, I have found that people laugh at the idea of “in Thor we trust”, but get strangely quiet at the idea of “in Allah we trust”, especially when I remind them that Allah is also the abrahamic god, just as Yahweh.

    I’m sure that Prof. Heddle will be along to argue that the Christian god is not the same as Allah or Yahweh.

  10. 10
    DaveL

    The only god that could pass muster to be on currency or in a state-sanctioned pledge is an utterly empty “ceremonial god” devoid of any real religious content

    Then there’s the fact that Judaism and Christianity both have injunctions against using the name of God in vain. What else would you call it to repeat the word endlessly without any meaning behind it?

  11. 11
    386sx

    The White House has new website

    This is reminiscent of the famous “lolspeak” (except they would say can haz website, but would say cheeseburger instead of website though.)

  12. 12
    paranoidandroid

    Didn’t see a link to the petitions in the post, so here’s one. The two secular petitions are, as Ed said, 4th and 5th down.

    https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions#!/petitions/popular/0/2/0/

    And check it out what number 1 is! How cool is that?

  13. 13
    speedwell

    Suddenly the site is “down for maintenance.”

  14. 14
    Sqrat

    There’s a snowball’s chance in hell of getting enough people to demand that “under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance to make it happen.

    As an alternative, I’d like to see another petition: to change “under God” to “under Jesus and under no pope.” That should piss off the Jews and the Catholics while leaving the evangelicals befuddled about whether they ought to support it.

  15. 15
    Deen

    @paranoidandroid: a lot of the first dozen or so are about legalizing marijuana and ending the war on drugs. Also interesting: despite the insistence from the right wing that the US is a conservative country, all petitions that I’ve seen so far seem to be clear liberal positions.

  16. 16
    386sx

    A petition created on Sept. 22 by “Dimitar T,” entitled “Edit the Pledge of Allegiance to remove the phrase ‘Under God,’”

    Look at me! I’m under God! *converts to fundyism*

  17. 17
    Chris from Europe

    God could be a little more versatile …

  18. 18
    Michael Heath

    Ed writes:

    [Thomas Jefferson] argued that it is only error that requires the government’s support, the truth can stand on its own.

    Another shining example of Jefferson’s utopianism taken to a defective extreme.

  19. 19
    TCC

    Deen: I suspect the rejoinder to that is that it’s the White House doing the soliciting, and so liberal opinions will tend to dominate the discussion. I would bet that if John Boehner, the GOP, or Fox News (but I repeat myself) had a similar feature on one of their sites, the petitions would be for more distinctly right-wing issues.

  20. 20
    Michael Heath

    I’m logged into the Petition site but the “sign this petition” icons are both grayed-out and don’t return a result when clicked.

  21. 21
    Deen

    @The Christian Cynic:
    you’re probably right, but they could have just as easily have used the opportunity to rally their troops as soon as the petition site opened to flood it with right-wing talking points. What was there to lose? If the government listens, great, if they don’t, they get to cry “persecution” again.

    Then again, maybe they did try this, but they just don’t have the numbers, so maybe they’ll just go straight to the conspiracy theories.

  22. 22
    eric

    While I like the sentiment, that page is a good argument against direct democracy. I suspect you could put practically anything up there – even nonsensical requests like “allow slithy toves to gyre but not gimble” and get 10,000 people to vote for it.

  23. 23
    MikeMa

    @DaveL #10
    Taking the lord’s name in vain, that is commandment #3 IIRC. So that makes judge Roy Moore’s piety toward the ten ridiculous commandments absolute shite. The ultimate hypocrisy – breaking the commandments by edict. Makes the pledge more interesting but still worth changing or deleting.

  24. 24
    abb3w

    Besides which, the pledge is specified in 4 USC 4. On a fundamental level, the petition is being directed to the wrong branch of government. And, given the current demographic composition of the voters who Congress represents (as well as the current Congress itself), at this point trying to change it hasn’t (so to speak) a prayer.

    It sucks, but barring an epidemic shift in attitudes, changing it is not an achievable goal within the next decade, nor probably even the next three.

  25. 25
    palmirasilva

    There are two others looking quite nice (but with fewer votes…)

    Change the motto of the United States of America [from in god we trust] to “E Pluribus Unum”
    https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions/!/petition/change-motto-united-states-america-e-pluribus-unum/xf3jN26S

    Abolish Abstinence-Only Education From US Public Schools
    https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions/!/petition/abolish-abstinence-only-education-us-public-schools/LVkFfWBV

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